Just ask Bob Cousy to see his championship rings and this question may answer itself. In a tremendous 14-year career that spanned from the late 1950s to the dominant Celtics of the 1960s, Cousy won six championships alongside 12 (Heinsohn, Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Ramsey, Sharman, Macauley, Havlicek, Lovellette, Risen, Andy Phillip and Houbregs) other Hall of Famers and created a long standing legacy.
In the time since he retired, the NBA has seen some amazing point guards take control of the game, mastering it with wizardry and elegance. One of the best since then â€“ not often mentioned in these conversations â€“ is Steve Nash.
Nash started his career as the backup to 1990s star Kevin Johnson and all-time great Jason Kidd with the Phoenix Suns and then made his way out of that crowded backcourt to the Dallas Mavericks and then back to the Suns. With Dallas, Nash became synonymous with great shooting and high scoring offensive teams. His wings really spread once back in Phoenix where Nash became synonymous with double-doubles and All-NBA Team honors.
This is the third entry in the Point Guard Debate that saw Kidd overcome Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas upset John Stockton using these four basic categories: Statistics, Best Season, Playoff Success and Historical Effect. Let the debate begin!
Across the board these two are similar and have a few minor differences. Cousy was definitly a better rebounder and does not have certain statistics (steals, turnovers, double and triple-doubles) due to the time he played. He was a better scorer, but only because of circumstance. With Boston, he had a player named Bill Russell who did the little things that allowed him to score in more volume. The team structure allowed Cousy to be more of a scorer at times and a distributor at other times, quite the luxury.
Look up and down the rosters Nash played with. He may have played with one surefire Hall of Famer and two or three fringe Hall prospects. Nash had to be the catalyst that drove the team all game and all season. He pushed the tempo, scored as needed and spread the ball around to numerous cellar dwellers that became household names thanks to his creativity.
As an all-around player, Cousy has the edge in stats, but Nash more than makes up for it as an elite passer and shooter.
Steve Nash: 2005-2006 (54-28)… 18.8 PPG, 10.5 APG, 4.2 RPG, .8 SPG, 51.2 FG%, 43.9 3PT%, 92.1 FT%, 43 Double-Doubles and 0 Triple-Doubles
Bob Cousy: 1958-1959 (52-20)… 20 PPG, 8.6 APG, 5.5 RPG, N/A SPG, 38.4 FG%, N/A 3PT%, 85.5 FT%, *double-doubles and triple-doubles were not recorded this season
The second of Nash’s back-to-back MVP seasons ended in similar fashion, a six-game loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. This was a season after winning his first MVP and reaching the WCF the year before, which means he and the team were on the map and had expectations. Nash did not shy away from the moment, leading the Suns once again to the brink of greatness only to be denied by another Texas team.
Two years after winning his only MVP, Cousy had an elite season that led to Boston winning the first of EIGHT championships in a row. He was the catalyst for the nightly dominance Boston was able to display by filling up the stat sheet in virtually every category.
At their best, Nash was more of a pure shooter and distributed the ball with unmatched control and Cousy was a scorer that could do everything very well. Both players exhibited those qualities flawlessly in these seasons and took their team to hieghts many never get to see. Nash fell short and Cousy won, but look back at the rosters and count the Hall of Famers for each team.
Not much to compare here right? Cousy won six championships as the point guard for the Boston Celtics during the first and most dominant dynasty in sports history. His success can be credited in large part to playing with a Top 10 player of all-time in Bill Russell and arguably the best coach in sports history, Red Auerbach. Nothing should be taken away from Cousy in the playoffs as he was a major contributor to numerous titles, averaging 18.5 PPG, 8.6 APG, and 5 RPG over 109 games.
For Nash, history will show he always knocked on the door, but never at the right time. He was a part of both Mavericks and Suns teams that reached four Western Conference Finals and lost to the eventual champions three of those times. In the playoffs Nash was no slouch, averaging 17.3 PPG and 8.9 APG throughout 118 games to date.
When you look back at the the 1950s and the 1960s, history will show you that Cousy was a Top 6 player during that 20-year period. It is a much smaller sample as far as players are concerned, but Cousy has his name firmly next to Jerry West (the NBA Logo), Wilt Chamberlain (retired as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer), Bill Russell (Finals MVP trophy name) and Oscar Robertson (Mr. Triple-Double). That is company worth keeping.
Nash will be known for two major aspects of his game and both play a part in why his team’s offense is nearly always ranked number one in the league. First, he is an elite all-around shooter. For his career he is currently seventh all-time in three point shooting, first in free throw shooting and is a steady 48.9% from the field. Those numbers combine to make Nash the best shooter in basketball history, especially when you factor in the volume he shoots to keep his team winning. Second is the consistent proficiency he displayed running a team with his assists and play calling.
On one side, you have a player who held his own and became a legend against some of the best ever and in the other you have the greatest shooter and – it is debatable – the best passer ever. Not possible to lose either way here.
The Houdini of the Hardwood retired as the all-time leader in assists and stayed that way until Robertson passed him five seasons later. Since then, 13 players have surpassed him and numerous others are on track to pass him in the future. In his era he was “the point guard” and won at an alarming clip with the greatest dynasty in sports history.
It is easy to discredit Cousy for the company he kept, but they won. If he played with them and never won it would be easy to dismiss him as just another good player. Instead they won EIGHT championships in a row (Cousy was a part of six) and he became a legend. When Nash retires he will be near the top in numerous point guard categories and he will have had a stellar career, but Cousy did it first and is one of the all-time greats. In the end, Cousy edges out Nash 1-0-3 in the third battle of the point guards.
Some big names are missing and the best may have been saved for last in an ultimate point guard battle for the ages…
Which point guard would you take?
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